College Advice for the High School Parent

Documenting the navigation orchestrations of a clueless mom and her fledgling son, as he begins the

College Experience 

This post is dedicated to those parents of high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors, who are walking down the crazy path of college decisions.
It's simply insight into our journey that may help you on yours.
Good luck.

First let's just put it out there.  War Eagle.  I suppose I'll have to get used to saying that, and wearing orange-and-blue on purpose.  Off to Auburn University he goes.
May 23, 2014
He has graduated high school.  YAY!!!!! We celebrate a great accomplishment for a really awesome kid.  I'm very excited for him.  This is a phase of life where potential and adventure are dazzlingly close.  Nothing seems to be in the way of his dreams and goals.  It's a time full of HOPE and JOY!  I hope it lasts for a very long time.


When to start looking for the right college

The college adventure begins before the senior year begins.  If your child wants to go to college but isn't 100% sure about where he or she wants to attend, start visiting campuses early.  We began the summer before his junior year in high school.  Use those junior year breaks to see campuses in different cities or states.  Lots of other sites will give you advice on that task, so I won't go into all the where, what, and hows.  But I will say this.  It will benefit your kid in unexpected ways.
It opens their eyes to 1) possibilities, 2) future lifestyle, and 3) If I do "this" then I'll get that????!!!
Number 3 was huge for my kid.  He realized he wasn't that far away from a decent scholarship to places that he really wanted to go.  Wham, Bam, his grades improved across the board from then on.  Who knew that an awesome water recreation facility and a nice dorm room could change the game?

When to apply

Most college applications go live online before the senior year begins.  You'll have to research those dates for your own college choices.  For us, midnight, August 1st was the crucial time.  He stayed up until midnight and submitted his apps for his 2 top choices within minutes of the application going live.  Here's why.  Your "priority" for housing, and in some cases scholarship consideration, is based on when the application was received.  This can be very important for many colleges, as housing can be hard to come by.
Don't freak out if you don't have the kids application in at the first moment.  But earlier in the process is definitely better. 
Apply to more than one college.  My kid chose 4 schools.  You never know what "package" may be offered to your son or daughter from their "second choice" that might just turn that school into the right place for them.
If a student has been rejected by the school they really wanted, consider the appeals process.  Sometimes a review of the application they submitted can reveal an error or omission that, when corrected, can tip the scale in their favor. 
And lastly, review their applications before the submit them.  A second set of eyes catches things that the first set didn't see or didn't recognize as important.

When to submit Scholarship Applications

Here's where timing is tricky, so stay focused on that calendar in the fall.  Pay attention to the dates when the applications open and submit them as early as possible.  Most of the ones we did had November 1 or December 1 deadlines.  Some general scholarships have early spring deadlines.  In a nut shell here's the time line.  (Doesn't take into account early-decision or wait list options)
  1. Apply for admission - Before school starts the senior year
  2. Receive acceptance - September-ish
  3. Apply for scholarship - ASAP after acceptance and before the deadlines
  4. Pray, hope, fidget - who knows how long
  5. Receive freshman scholarships - December-ish
  6. Submit FAFSA - before March- more on this later
  7. Receive departmental scholarships - March-ish
  8. Commit to a College- anytime BEFORE MAY 1
Buy some team spirit wear and learn a new cheer language.  OK, not everyone will have to do that.  But the whole WAR EAGLE thing is going to take a bit of adjustment for me personally.

I'll let more qualified sources direct you to where to find the right scholarship for your student.  Don't discount ROTC, privately funded, or legacy scholarships. 
FAFSA  - Free Application for Federal Student Aid - This is an online form that will require you to have tax information handy in order to complete it.  Most colleges have a deadline around March 1.  Never fear if you haven't gotten your taxes done by the time the FAFSA is due.  Just have your W2/1099/bank account stuff with you when you fill it out.  Submit it with the "Will File" option.  Then when your taxes are filed, go back and update the FAFSA.  It's not as difficult as you think.
Whether or not you feel your family will qualify for aid, you really must submit the FAFSA.  The reason being that some schools have a generic scholarship application attached to a large pool of general scholarships. Some of those scholarships are need based; some are not.  FAFSA is mandatory for that generic application.  Therefore if you do not submit it, your student will not be considered for ANY of those scholarships.  Just fill it out already.

When to submit dorm Applications

Dorm life.  Good times, man.  Good times.  So when do you need to apply?  Early.  No surprise there.  Apply to your dorm of choice as soon as you are accepted into a college.  Do you apply for housing even if you aren't sure which school your kid will choose?  Yes, if having your kid live on campus is important to you.  You can always cancel it.  Be prepared to spend some $$$, though.  Some schools (read as "Auburn") require you to put in some hefty deposits.  For instance, Auburn requires a $200 admissions deposit before the housing application can even be submitted. THEN there is a $50 non-refundable housing application fee, AND a "$250 refundable housing prepayment".   Ouch.
It's the end of May and I'm still waiting to get confirmation on his housing.  NERVOUS!
There are many opinions on dorms.  Mine is simple.  My kid needs to have a couple of years in a dorm before he's ready to handle an apartment on his own.  Yours may be fine in an apartment right of the bat. 

When to Commit to a College

This is a personal thing.  Most schools have a May 1st deadline.  If you've done your research, your kid should have had a couple of months to mull it over before May 1.  It would be nice if he or she was accepted into their dream school on a full scholarship so there wouldn't be a question as to where they wanted to go.  Unfortunately, that isn't always the case. 
On a side note, if everything hasn't fallen into place by May 1, don't panic.  Talk to the school in question.  Deadlines, even scholarship deadlines, can be malleable for the right candidates. 


Graduation is behind us.  Summer is here.  My son is scheduled to register for his classes and do orientation next month.  We've got to buy him an uber laptop between now and the beginning of classes in the fall.  I believe classes start in the middle of August.

That is all for now.  I'll keep this page going to fill you in on the adventure, and offer helpful hints for your upcoming college freshman.  Next Topic - REGISTRATION and COURSE SELECTION

War Eagle.



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  2. We are about to embark on the journey as Alex enters his senior year in the fall. I am not ready!! So much to do and remember. Thanks for the tips!! :)

    Kathy Garcia (not sure why its using my twitter name)